Thursday, April 2, 2009

Episode #66: Superman In The Pocket Universe!

Note: The new theme music, Plans In Motion, was composed by Kevin Macleod, part of the royalty music library found at .

The Pocket Universe was a concept established in a number of various DC titles before the post-crisis Superman ventured into it. None of the issues mentioned here were collected in any edition that I could find.

It all began in Cosmic Boy, a four issue mini-series cover dated December 1986 - March 1987, and published from September to December 1986. Cosmic Boy and his girlfriend Night Girl used one of the Legion's time bubbles to travel to "our" then current time of the mid-1980's. They were surprised to find that the news items did not match what 30th century history had chronicled. Eventually they discovered that the Time Trapper was responsible and used the time bubble to travel to the Trapper's citadel at the end of time to battle him.

The Legion next battled the Time Trapper in a story that crossed over the Legion title and the two Superman titles writer and artist John Byrne worked on, Superman and Action Comics. The first three issues of the story were cover dated August 1987, Legion Of Super-Heroes #37, published on May 5, 1987, Superman #8, published on May 12, 1987, and Action Comics #591, published on May 26, 1987. The story concluded in Legion Of Super-Heroes #38, cover dated September 1987 and published on June 9, 1987. The Time Trapper had forced Superboy to become a pawn and attack the Legion. The Legion traveled back in time, but landed in the time of the adult Superman. Superboy trapped both the Legion and Superman, but Superman was able to break free of Superboy's trap and stop him. Superman deduces that Superboy had left an "out" so that the Legion and Superman could escape and eventually regroup with Superboy to confront the Time Trapper as a unified group. The Legion leaves Superman in his own time because his future life is necessary for the Legion to be established in the future. In LSH #38 the climatic battle takes place, with Superboy sacrificing his life to save his Earth, dying in the process.

In the development of the story the Legion discover that the Superboy they visited in the past was not "their" past, but a Superboy living in a "pocket universe" created by the Time Trapper with a stolen second of time. Part of this devleopment was mesh the post-crisis Superman continuity without a Superboy with Legion continuity inspired by the legacy of Superboy. Later DC would attempt to use Mon-El, in his 20th century life, as a replacement for Superboy under the name Valor. With the upcoming mini-series Superman: Secret Origins Geoff Johns and Gary Frank will apparently restore a teen Clark Kent as Superboy in Earth-1 continuity.

The main Superman story involving the Pocket Universe, which would culminate in The Supergirl Saga, began with a two page sub-plot at the end of Superman #16, the April 1988 issue which appeared on December of 1987. A crew from an Antarctic base investigated a heat source in the Antarctic wilderness where there should not be any heat sources. What they found is an unconscious blonde woman dressed in a Supergirl costume, in a pool of melted ice.

In Adventures Of Superman #440, the crew returned to base and examined the alive but still unconscious Supergirl. They figured out that the depth of the ice where they found her meant that she had been buried under the ice for several hundred years. She awakened in Adventures Of Superman #441. The now red haired Supergirl, still disoriented, flew away, knowing somehow that she had to get to Smallville, in Superman #19.

Supergirl reached Lana's farm in Superman #20. When Lana brought the Kents over to meet her, Supergirl was shocked to see the Kents alive. She thought they had already died. At the end of the issue a once again red haired Supergirl followed Superman as he headed toward Metropolis.

The Supergirl Saga was told in Superman #21, published on May 24, 1988, and Adventures Of Superman #444, released on May 31, 1988, both cover dated September 1988, and Superman #22, the October 1988 issue published on June 21, 1988. In Superman #21, Supergirl reveals herself to Superman for the first time. She does not claim to be from Krypton, as her silver age version was, and claims her super powers were given to her by Lex Luthor. Her powers were different from her silver age version. She had a chameleon power, able to change her appearance to resemble anyone (she changes to a twin of Lana Lang). She can generate psycho-kinetic blasts and make herself invisible, even to Superman's super senses. Her memories are still spotty. For instance, she thinks that Metropolis had been one of the first cities destroyed in some battle. When Superman introduces Supergirl to Lex Luthor, she realizes that he is not "her" Lex. Her memories are now clear, and she activates a dimensional teleporter with a touch of her belt buckle. Once on her Earth she introduces Superman to her Lex Luthor, a younger in shape Luthor with a full head of red hair.

Adventures Of Superman #444, with cover and story drawn by Jerry Ordway, opened with Superman grieving at the headstone of Jonathan and Martha Kent, even though they were not his parents. At this point both of his parents were still alive. Pa Kent would pass away at the end of 2008's Brainiac story in Action Comics. This issue was mostly a flashback, revealing why the pocket universe Earth needed Superman. Luthor told Superman how he first came to Smallville at the conclusion of Jonathan Kent's funeral. The parents of this universe's Superboy died of a broken heart after their son did at the end of the LSH mentioned earlier. Luthor had hoped to discuss with Superboy a possible antidote to kryptonite poisoning. He met Lana Lang and Pete Ross, who revealed Superboy's secret identity to Luthor, now that the Kents had all died. They drove to the Kent home, where Luthor discovered, in a secret room, a device that could peer into another dimension. At the other end of the connection, someone who introduced himself as Kal-El's uncle, instructed Luthor on assembling a device that could retreive him and his two friends from a "survivor zone". Once free they destroyed a device and then Superboy's basement lab. They reveal themselves as General Zod, Zaora and Quex-Ul, Kryptonian prisoners of the Phantom Zone, now self-appointed rulers of Earth. Luthor dedicates his considerable intellect to the human resistance. Eventually the three Kryptonians burrowed to Earth's core, allowing seawater to reach the molten core and exploded in steam, stripping the atmosphere from Earth. Only the Smallville base, constructed by Luthor and protected by a force shield, survived the devastation. Luthor would be joined by the familiar names of Hal Jordan, Oliver Queen and Bruce Wayne in the resistance, and by the end of the issue, Superman also.

Superman #22, titled The Price, concluded this story, and John Byrne's tenure on the Superman's titles as well. The final battle on this almost lifeless Earth took place. The Smallville base was destroyed, and Wayne, Queen and Jordan as well. Supergirl seems to have been killed when hit by the twin beams of heat vision of General Zod and Zaora. Luthor cryptically told Superman that the "protomatter" would eventually regenerate itself. He also sent Superman on a desperate mission in a clever way. Superman was intercepted by Quex-Ul who seemed to be stronger than Superman, as was Superboy. It seemed the Kryptonians of the pocket universe were more powerful than Superman. He escapes the attack by burrowing inderground until he reached the ruins of Superboy's lab. Again he was attacked by Quex-Ul, until Superman found what he was looking for, the pocket universe version of gold kryptonite, which he was immune to as well as the other versions of the mineral. Quex-Ul was rendered powerless and Superman used the rubble to construct a prison cell. Superman carried the improvised prison to General Zod and Zaora, as well as the gold kryptonite. Once all of the prisoners were inside, Superman looked for Luthor, who was slowly dying in his wrecked warship. Superman asked Luthor why he didn't use the gold kryptonite at the beginning of the war. Before he answered Luthor revealed that Lana/Supergirl was an artificial life form, modeled after the late Lana Lang, who was an early casualty. She would survive and regenerate, and Luthor asked Superman to take care of her. Then he confessed that his folly was that he wanted the Kryptonian despots to be defeated by the Luthor intellect. Evil or hero, it seemed that the Luthor vanity would always lead to his downfall. Returning to his prisoners, Superman wondered what he would do with them, since they were this world's only survivors. They promise to find a way to regain their super powers and find a way to his Earth. They left Superman no choice, it seemed, but to execute them for their crimes by using the pocket universe version of kryptonite. Superman then buried them on this now lifeless world.

Superman returned to his dimension and world, along with the regenerating matrix, who he named Mae. He brought her to the Kent farm, taking a few minutes to fly alone and gather his thoughts. Looking down on the people below, Superman wondered what they would think of him if they knew what he had just done.

The consequences of his actions would weigh heavy on Superman and eventually lead to his self-imposed exile from Earth. That story is now collected in the edition Superman In Exile, and will be the subject of future episodes of the Superman Fan Podcast.

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Superman and all related characters are trademark and copyright DC Comics.

Thanks for listening to Superman Fan Podcast and, as always, thanks to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

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